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Tallahassee Utility Disconnections Set To Resume More Than A Year After Moratorium Started

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Tallahassee City Government
Tallahassee's Chief Customer Officer James Barnes addresses city commissioners about the city's recommendation to resume utility disconnections at a live-streamed meeting on Wednesday.

Tallahassee utility shutoffs will resume in about two months.

City commissioners voted unanimously (5-0) on Wednesday to give residents with past-due utility accounts a 60-day advance notice before gas, water and electricity disconnections begin.

Leon County has received 8.9 million dollars in federal aid for rent and utility assistance.

City officials say they’re working with the county to ensure most of that supports past-due utility payments.

The city’s utilities department has identified about 2,700 customers who haven’t paid since August. Of those, 770 haven’t paid in a year. City Manager Reese Goad says federal aid could cover up to 12 months of past due payments and up to 3 months of future payments.

“We want them to get that full period of time if they can qualify for that,” Goad said. “Don’t wait to act. Let’s get the assistance. Let’s get the issue settled before we get to a point where it’s a possible disconnection.”

Goad says the the utilities department will work to educate customers about available assistance and setting up a payment plan.

City commissioners paused utility disconnections last March to assist residents struggling to pay their bills during the pandemic. Since then, about 13,000 residential and commercial customers have benefited from the program. That's driven up the city’s total amount of unpaid bills to about $9 million.

“This makes it a perfect opportunity for us to remove some of the delinquency that we have and assist customers in getting support so there’s no drop in service," said Chief Customer Officer James Barnes, who called the city's recommendation a win for everyone in an interview about a week before the meeting. "And we’re all helping one another so that there is no hardship.”

City commissioners encouraged residents who haven’t struggled financially during the pandemic to help cover some of the payments for residents at-risk of having their utilities disconnected.

“As individuals we can assist our neighbors and families and friends with making those payments,” said Commissioner Curtis Richardson. “We have a mechanism where they can do that.”

Donations are accepted through the city’s project share program. To contribute, residents may call 850-891-4968 or fill out an application online.